Walmart Superstore Threatens Wilderness Battlefield

SLIDE: Walmart Withdraws

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Background Information

Plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter within sight of one of the most significant Civil War battle sites in our nation have been submitted for approval in Orange County, Virginia. This 240,000-square-foot store is proposed just one-quarter mile from the main entrance to a national park that honors the sacrifice of the Civil War combatants who fought and died at Wilderness Battlefield in May 1864. 

As a part of a growing coalition, the National Trust strongly opposes intensive commercial development at this historic site – located at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 3 – because it would degrade the rural setting of the battlefield, promote commercial sprawl and drastically increase traffic through the heart of the park. In fact, big-box traffic congestion here would dramatically increase pressure to widen Route 20 from two to four lanes – a fatal mistake strongly opposed by preservationists. Additionally, construction of the Wal-Mart Supercenter would likely lead to additional retail development within this corridor, including three additional big-box stores that are already in the works.

Important Information

  • On April 30, 2010, the Orange County Circuit Court in Virginia determined (download the full decision) that a lawsuit filed by the the National Trust along with the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and local residents could proceed to trial, though the National Trust was found not to have standing to remain as a plaintiff. Learn More » 
  • On January 21, 2010, the director of the National Park Service, in a letter to the Civil War Preservation Trust and the National Parks Conservation Association, expressed strong support for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's litigation in the Orange County Circuit Court, and described the National Park Service's serious concerns about the impact of the proposed Wal-Mart to the Wilderness Battlefield. Read the Letter »
  • On September 23, 2009, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with park advocates and local residents, filed a legal challenge to the "Wilderness Wal-Mart" approval. Learn More » 
  • On July 13, 2009, Virginia's then Governor Tim Kaine and Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William Howell wrote to the Orange County Board of Supervisors to strongly encourage the local elected officials to “work closely with Wal-Mart to find an appropriate alternative site” for the proposed Wal-Mart development which should be “situated outside the boundaries of Wilderness Battlefield and out of view from Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.”
  • On June 25, 2009, the Orange County Planning Commission voted 5 – 4 to recommend approval of Wal-Mart’s flawed plan to construct 240,000 square feet of big-box development within the boundaries of the Wilderness Battlefield and across the road from the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. The final decision to approve or reject Wal-Mart will be made by the Orange County Board of Supervisors later this summer.
  • Over 5,000 preservationists signed our online petition urging Wal-Mart to find an alternate location for its planned Supercenter.
  • The National Trust is communicating directly with Wal-Mart corporate executives to ask for the relocation of the planned Supercenter, as well as with adjacent landowners who are preparing to intensively develop their property as a result. 
  • The National Trust and the National Park Service testified before the Vermont Legislature as they considered and ultimately passed a resolution asking Virginia officials to protect the historic battlefield because of its national significance. 
  • Along with the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, the National Trust has offered to pay for a land-use planning study that would balance preservation of this irreplaceable historic site with sustainable economic development. 


This story is closed to new comments.

Submitted by Mike Page at: February 9, 2011
My ancestor, Corporal Charles Franklin Page, died on May 6, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness. He was with the Michigan 8th, Compay I, Color Guard. He was 21 years old at the time of his death. I applaud the NTHP and WalMart for bringing this issue to a reasonable solution. Are there any efforts to have the land in question protected by local historic preservation ordinance? In my experience, it's at the local level where true protection begins ... and ends. Michael J. Page Michigan

Submitted by stella39 at: February 9, 2011
Congratulations to all responsible for saving the Battle of the Wilderness area from development. My great-grandfather, Mitchell Cecil, of Pulaski, Va., was severely wounded in this battle (lost one eye and the use of one arm), but survived and GTT (gone to Texas), managed to farm in Grayson County, Tx for 30 more years before dying. As a family, we are grateful for your efforts. Linda Watters

Submitted by christie at: January 27, 2011
Way to go NTHP! Thank you again for being there.

Submitted by Let History Stay Historic! at: January 23, 2011
It is often written that the victors rewright history to their likeing. Let us NOT let any corporation rewright the untimely deaths of those who served,and gave their full measure,or of the many who's lives were changed forever on this,or any other battlefield. Americans do not need a McDonalds,a Taget,or anything,other then the silent reverance that these places that have woven into the fabric of our Nation. Will Walmart want to build in places such as, Vally Forge Pa.,Lexinton,and Concord. I'm sure the French would never alowe the Beaches of Normandy to ring out with anything other then the lapping of the ocean against the shore,just to line the pockets of a few poloticians. I greves me to think that one day a National Park Ranger,would begin his,or her speach with General Custer's men were down there just past the Lowe's parking lot,when they were cut down to a man,buy the waring Indian Nation,that lay in wait over here at the cross walk of The Little Bighorn,Mall and food court. If there is a tree near to anyone who would contemplate the desicration of the land of any of our Public Historic sights. Then let them be hung by the neck on that tree,and left there,so that all shall know,that in America,History take precedents over consumerisem.Because without the knowledge of History,there is no need for consumerisem. There is no need for a Republic anymore. That will be a sad day,will anyone know how to play taps,as we role up Old Glory for the last time? God Bless Americia,her History,and Her Future!

Submitted by Tinker at: January 21, 2011
Totally unnecessary to build in this location. We are being lead to to believe that the Waltons are "fine upstanding billionaires" who want to do good for America. Well here's a place to prove it. Build elsewhere.

Submitted by historybuff at: December 31, 2010
i just went to a website to look up the wilderness.never been there before.i love the old houses, the battlefields.i was shocked to see that walmart of all things wants to build there.why there? ive read that they have another walmart 15 min away.sounds to me like they want what they cant have." if you forget the past were doomed to repeat it." we should always take care of our parks.i thought since its on a park that no one can touch it.what will our kids and grandkids think about when they hear that we tore up the battlefield for a store? what about all the dead that will be under walmart? if they do build a walmart on top i hope the ghosts of my civil war ancestors scare the crap out of them. its sickening to see our history going away. its one thing to learn about history in a book.but when you go and see for yourself. it brings it out more.for example i love american history. thats the only subject in school that i got straight A's in. but thats because my parents took me on vacations to gettysburg,WA DC, among others so i can witness what it was like. how dare walmart infringe on that. the almighty dollar should take a back seat in this case. walmart doesnt pay all that well either.i know i have had friends work there.all that money goes back to china. how would china like it if we tore down something historic over there and put up a 50s diner or something american? they wouldnt like it.

Submitted by Scott at: December 1, 2010
I decided to start visiting sites where the Civil War action took place. Last year I went to Gettysburg and was impressed with what I saw. The battlefields were quiet and peaceful, a santuary to the horrific events that took place there. Yet those events shaped our nation as it is today. This year I visited Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Manassas, expecting the same awe and respect I experienced in Gettysburg. The people in these areas have done the best they can but the urban sprawl is the horrifc part of these areas. I was amazed by the traffic and businesses right at the door steps of battlefields that did so much to shape this nation. It is a sad sight to witness. The feelings that enveloped me at Gettysburg were much more challenging in these areas, because of the difficulties trying to navigate the traffic, stoplights in the middle of battlefields, car wrecks, sounds of busy traffic, etc. The areas surrounding the battlefields were definitely not santuaries that paid homage to soldiers that put their lives on the line for this nation. Preserving these battlefields is critical in making sure these soldiers get the respect they deserve. As I watched all the cars passing by, I wondered how many of these people really know what happend here. Did they really get it??? Obviously Wal-Mart does not get it. Maybe they should read the Gettysburg Address and take it to heart. But to some people $$$$ is all they will ever understand. It is really sad to think we may not leave these sites to our future generations.

Submitted by The Doc at: October 18, 2010
Walmart does not need to build a store on or near a battlefield especially one of this importance.

Submitted by anti walmart at: October 2, 2010
One word will stop Wal-fart just like they closed there Canada store after re-evaluation. UNION. See if they have any issues with employees unionizing at this store.

Submitted by Allan at: September 9, 2010
The Battle of the Wilderness was the first time that Union Troops under the command of Lt. Gen. Grant clashed with the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Gen Lee. The battle was heavy in casualties and Grants troops broke off the engagement moving toward Spotsylvania Court House (more details in ).

Submitted by Jim at: August 11, 2010
To Wal Mart its all about money. To myself and alot of others its about heritage and family honor. My great Grandad was a medic there during that period of time. Wal Mart isnt worth what they are doing to our country or heritage.

Submitted by Anne Madsen at: August 4, 2010
To Phyllis Ascue. Sorry to do this, but I have no other way to contact you. My grandmother's uncle was Michael E. Bowers. I would love to touch base with you to see what you know of the family. Email me at docaye(at) Thanks!

Submitted by anneta at: June 15, 2010
According to what I have read and watched, The Battle of the Wilderness was the first time that Union Troops under the command of Lt. Gen. Grant clashed with the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Gen Lee. The battle was heavy in casualties and Grants troops broke off the engagement moving toward Spotsylvania Court House (more details in the video ).

Submitted by Katering at: May 27, 2010
we have the same issue here....

Submitted by Joanies at: May 21, 2010
It is pretty sad when large companies like Walmart can come into a city and just threaten to take over historial places, only to put a large ugly building. Money talks and Walmart has plenty of that to get action in their favor. I am surprised at your planning board but we see this all over the different states where the planning boards are giving in to Walmart and other big companies with no thought to our valueable history. Once its gone we can never recapture it again.

Submitted by Buzz at: May 19, 2010
Mr Walton, don't ruin this Park !

Submitted by marco at: May 19, 2010
wall mart trying to stonewall our national battlfields. this store is total nonsense , . look! walmart ! you have already ruined main street and the small player in retail. put so many people and familys out of work , ruiuned the fabric of our towns . and village propriators . . but stay away from our national heritage . you dont need this site . . Your just an unconcionable destroyer of the life here in UNTIED STATES OF AMERICA . . GO AWAY WE DO NOT NEED YOU HERE .

Submitted by Anon at: October 5, 2009
How goes Virginia? Ohio’s $68.5 Million “Walmart Tax” 11 Comments| Oct 02, 2009 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From our allies over at Wake Up Walmart: If you are an Ohio taxpayer, you’re probably footing the bill for Walmart’s unaffordable health care plans. Newly released data shows that Ohio spends roughly $68.5 million each year providing state benefits to Walmart employees. The numbers are staggering. Over 15,000 Walmart employees use Medicaid, 12,000 are on food stamps, and thousands more utilize other state-run programs. Worst of all, it’s paid for out of Ohio taxpayers’ pockets. Walmart doesn’t need your money to support its employees. With nearly $14 billion in profits last year, Bentonville can clearly afford to do better. We can’t allow Walmart to fail its employees and your state. Please take action: inform your local newspaper about Walmart’s exploitation of Ohio’s health and welfare programs. Write Your Newspaper: Let Your Community Know That Walmart is Failing Ohio Walmart claims to support health care reform and the employer mandate. Yet, In spite of astronomical profits, Walmart fails to cover 700,000 of its employees and offers plans too costly for its average employees to afford. Walmart claims that nearly 95% of its employees are covered by company health care or by a family member. Yet, in Ohio, 28% of Walmart’s Ohio employees are on Medicaid. Walmart’s claims simply don’t add up, and your state needs to know about it. Why is Ohio subsidizing the #1 company in the Fortune 500? Let Ohio know that you won’t allow your tax dollars to be a stopgap for Walmart’s low wages and unaffordable health coverage. Write a Letter to the Editor Today With your help, we can make Walmart live up to its responsibilities to its workers and to Ohio. The Team,

Submitted by John C. Gray at: September 28, 2009
Charlottesville-Right Now: Rick Britton Local author and historian, Rick Britton , joined Charlottesville Right Now to discuss the proposed Wal-Mart near the Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County and give the latest edition of his Civil War Quiz. Standard Podcast [20:16m]: Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download (41) ShareThis September 25th, 2009 | Category: Authors, Charlottesville Podcasts, Charlottesville--Right Now, History, Interviews, New audio, News, Outside Charlottesville, Radio Shows, Rick

Submitted by Arthur Nicholas CMAP at: September 24, 2009
The Wilderness Battle and indeed the Civil War was fought over State Rights. In order to convince new states to join the United States, states entering the Union by rule of Constitution reserved the right to secede for whatever reason its citizens chose. These rules were broken by Mr. Lincoln on many occasions before and after the attack on Fort Sumter. Mr. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and held State Senators from states wishing to secede against their will. All of this was done through lawyers and the people payed! Today we have a new battle near the same site where many fought and died before. This time the battle should be fought by the people and for the good of the people (only pro-bono lawyers seeking good reputations need be heard). The questions that should be posed are: Who is really opposed to Wal-Mart locating here? Could it be the overpriced Ma and Pa Vendors already in the area? If Wal-Mart is allowed to locate here, will Wal-Mart assist the community by sharing the cost (80% WMT 20% local government) of adding lanes and new signalization at the adjacent major intersections which may already be congested due to poorly planned previous commercial development near this location? Will good land-use planning practices be composed (shared parking, public transportation, shielding parking lots and commercial land-use form park-facilities, etc..) limiting commercial growth for this and all the areas around historic sites belonging to the "people"? This time we should fix the roads, beautify the area with appropriate zoning laws to reduce the visual impact of development clashing with historic areas, provide jobs, and provide a good economic future for this area. Make a model of this fiasco that benefits the people and not the lawyers.